Friday, September 30, 2011

Tips for Watching Conference with Children

 This coming up weekend is the semi-annual General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  What that means to my children is that instead of going to church for 3 hours on Sunday, they will get to watch our church leaders on t.v. for several hours on Saturday and Sunday.  Although as an adult, I look forward to this time with great anticipation because the messages are always exactly what I need to hear, for kids (especially younger ones) it gets a tad boring.  So the trick as parents is figuring out how to keep our kids engaged during this time.  My parents were great at teaching us the importance of Conference at a young age because of the steps they took, and now that I'm the parent, I realize I try and do it exactly the same!  Why mess with something that works right?

Here's some tips for keeping your children present and engaged for conference so they understand that it is important and something to look forward to:

1) Make them sit in the tv room with you as you watch it
Even if they're quietly playing, their ears still work and you will be surprised with what they actually do listen to.  Growing up, my parents always insisted we do this and even though we were allowed to quietly play, our ears were listening even though our hands were busy.  It helped me learn at a young age, that Conference weekend was not a week off of church.  Instead I learned that it was a very important event.

2) Have quiet activities/games already planned and set out for them
This way, there are no arguments or discussions as to what they are allowed to do during that time.  Good examples of this are puzzles, coloring books, word searches, Eye-Spy books, quiet toys like paper dolls/cars/figures or even just a bunch of blank paper and art supplies.

3) Print out the plethora of conference activity packets that are available on the internet 
Sugardoodle in particular is a great consolidated source to find so many fun ideas to keep the kids busy, but focused on conference.  It is genius what people think of to help the kids stay interested in a bunch of boring adults talking for hours on end.  My kids LOVE these packets every year and pay very close attention to most of conference so they can color in each man's tie or spot someone with glasses in the choir or color the conference center the exact colors it should be, etc.  Most of all they absolutely LOVE the BINGO cards I find each year.  Even my teenager will still play the BINGO.  I think it's mostly because they get to eat Smarties or goldfish or Skittles or whatever the treat is that day for the BINGO markers. 

4) Plan ahead of time and have fun, novel treats, snacks or meals for those days
Food can totally make a weekend or event special, and I'm not ashamed to say food definitely can make me look forward to meetings!  Many people have special "conference" food that they make every time as a family tradition.  It's a great time to start new traditions if you don't.  I personally don't have anything set in stone food wise, but last time I made some monkey bread for breakfast so we could eat it during the first session and it was a big hit.  I also make sure I have a few fun candies or snacks for the kids to play CONFERENCE BINGO with.  Since I have family nearby as well, sometimes we get together in between sessions and have a potluck and then watch the last session together.  Even if you don't have family nearby, invite a few other friends and families to join in with you.  The more the merrier!

5) For the Sunday sessions, think about still dressing up like it's church 
It really does help the entire family remember what day of the week is and act appropriately.  I know it's tempting to stay curled up in your pajamas on the couch all day.  For some, that is probably the allure of conference.  So maybe just think about getting dressed by the afternoon session and slowly wean yourself into it if you have to.

6) Once your children get a little older, slowly start introducing them to taking notes
Some of the conference packets are great at helping with this because they leave a few blank lines under each picture of an authority and tell the kids to write down what their talk was about.  As a kid, I watched my mom take pages of notes each session.  When I got a little older, I would sit by her with a notebook of my own and copy some of what she would write so I could feel grown up too.  By the time I was a teen, I was taking my very own notes and then copying them into my journal.  And now that I'm a grown up, I still avidly take notes.  It helps me stay focuses and I get SO MUCH more out of conference by doing this. 

7) And last but certainly not least, insist everyone listens to the prophet
Whether your children are toddlers or teenagers, insist they all stop whatever activities they are doing and give 100% of their attention to the prophet when he speaks.  Hopefully by the time they are teenagers, they are listening to a few more talks as well, but this guarantees your whole family at least heard a few talks that you can talk about and discuss later as a family.

Just for fun, I will end this by showing some cute ideas I've seen or done.  Some people are just so creative.  Look at what Blue Skies Ahead made for each of her children with a simple waste basket!  The children now have all of their fun activities in one place.  Genius!

Here's just one of the many BINGO cards my kids have done through the years

And thanks to Sugardoodle, my youngest two had a blast coloring in the First Presidency last conference and making the pulpit as well.  (my son thought it was hilarious that he gave the prophet pink shoes and I didn't - thus why he's standing behind the pulpit!)

Also thanks to Sugardoodle, the whole family helped color in the First Presidency & 12 apostles during one conference session.  Again, my youngest loved this paperdoll chain and played it for weeks after.  I still have it sitting on top of my computer desk so I can surprise her with it this weekend!
So make your preparations now so that you and your family can get the most out of this upcoming General Conference.  And for those of you who don't know when it's on, check your local cable listings for LDS General Conference or watch it at 

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Are You Still Hanging in There?

It's been awhile and I didn't want any of you to think I had forgotten about good health & fitness - or worse that I had forgotten about you!  How are you doing on your fitness goals?  Have you reached some milestones?  Remember little ones count just as much as the big ones!  I am pleased that at the beginning of September I FINALLY reached my dream weight goal.  It was only 5 pounds less than my target goal (reasonable goals are important), but a year ago it seemed pretty unreachable to me - and it took 3 more months to lose that 5 pounds.  Like I said before, sometimes the going is slow, but persistence always pays off and wins out! 

Are you feeling better and like you can conquer the world?  Do you notice muscles getting tighter and tougher?  Has daily exercise become routine for you now and (dare i say it) do you ever find yourself looking forward to it - or at least the high you feel afterwards (that's usually what I look forward to)?  Have you found workouts that you really enjoy - because that is key?   Are you still keeping up with your "My Fitness Pal" app?  I love that app and it has been extremely helpful to me the past 9 months in helping me visually see how many calories I burn during certain exercises, how many calories are in some of the foods I eat, etc.  I'm addicted to it! 

Please feel free to share with me your successes AND your struggles.  If you need help or have questions, hit me up.  Remember I am here to be your friend and biggest cheerleader too!  If you need additional support along your journey - I AM HERE!  Just leave a comment here for me, email us, or add me as your My Fitness Pal friend (I'm tiffunny) and I'll be the support and motivation you need.
Stick with it!  You can do it and you are stronger than you think you are. 

I'll hopefully start making a regular segment about fitness where I share tips, recipes and exercises.  If you have any other requests, shoot me a comment and I'll try and oblige!

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hiking Hints

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved hiking. My dad took us on random hikes all the time. Some were only half hour away at Red Rock Canyon where we did more climbing than hiking; some took longer—half a day or more—and we had to be more prepared. When we visited my grandparents in southern Utah, we’d hike trails in Zion National Park (heaven on Earth).
To some, hiking might seem the epitome of pointlessness. Why work so hard to get up to a ridge, just to come down again? And your feet hurt! If you feel that way, maybe you just haven’t gone on the right hikes…or gone prepared with the right attitude. Here are some hiking hints to remember and heed.

1—WATER. Don’t leave home without it! The longer the hike, the more you should take. Keeping hydrated helps you not get headaches and other problems.

2—FUEL. Take snacks or lunch to keep your energy up. Salty snacks are good. In the desert, not too much can be said about water and food. Gum or hard candy to suck on is nice too!
3—CAMERA. Seeing new sights is one of the payoffs of hiking. I love snapping pictures to remember places we’ve been, capture a stray deer or fox that bounds by, or a gurgling stream. There’s also nothing like a silly family photo out in the wild.
4—STURDY SHOES. Don’t hike in cheap sandals. Blisters are a pain. The longer the hike, the better shoes you should have for support. If your feet are comfortable, you’ll like the hike a lot better, I promise.

5—ADVENTURE. The same hike, done year after year, yields different results. Wildflowers might abound in a meadow one year and not be there at all the next because of drought. I’ve had grand adventures hiking: a hailstorm on a ridge at 9,000 feet where we had to seek shelter under a dead log; a baby bear has run across my path and I’ve been terrified that Mama would come next; we’ve come around a bend in Yellowstone to find a huge buffalo blocking our way, with no way around him. But even if nothing crazy like that happens, it’s still exciting to anticipate what’s around the next bend or on top of a ridge.
6—ENJOY. When you hike you mostly look down at your shoes (another good reason to have good ones). You don’t want to trip over a rock or exposed tree root, but if you never take time to look up, you’re missing out on what makes the hike truly enjoyable. It’s not the rutted path you travel (those look quite the same everywhere). You must stop occasionally to partake of the beauties around you. Look up, look outward…and ENJOY. It’s hard to duplicate the feeling of accomplishment you feel when you reach a summit and look off in all directions for hundreds of miles or reach a cliff overlooking an alpine lake that takes your breath away. These are the rewards for hiking.
7—BONDING. On a hike, your masks fall off and the TRUE YOU shows. As a kid, my mask came off quickly. I was the oldest, but was the chicken compared to my brave little sister. I loved nature’s beauties, but wasn’t fond of scraped knees or bloodied hands. I whined when we climbed up ledges and thought I might fall. My dad shook his head in exasperation many times when I’d holler, “If you leave me here to die, Mom’s going to be mad at you!”

As a parent, hiking is a great way to figure out who your kids really are. I have one child that is exactly like me when I was young; she’s a little fearful, but is delighted with wildflowers and grand vistas. I have others that are fearless and have an endless supply of energy and determination. I had one that would sit down stubbornly in the middle of the trail and refuse to go on no matter how much we threatened (he’s also my one who got frustrated with Yellowstone because it had “too many trees”). It’s great seeing what your kids will do.
Hikes can be small half hour jaunts or week long expeditions requiring lots of planning and equipment. It all depends upon your stamina and what you enjoy. I, for one, love the small to medium hikes because they’re easy to do and are just as enjoyable as a long one that takes more effort…and your feet don’t ache for days afterward. But whether short or long, HIKING has great payoffs for ALL if you go prepared to ENJOY!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homemade Rolls

You saw these rolls in the Potato Cheese Soup post
last week, as a teaser.
Believe me...if you make the soup, you HAVE to make these rolls with it!!
It is a MUST!
And they are so simple,
trust me on that one!

1 cup milk
1 cube butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup warm water
1 pkg yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
2 beaten eggs
5 cups flour

Scald milk by bringing to a boil in microwave (2 minutes is perfect).  Pour it over the butter, sugar and salt.  Stir and let cool slightly.  Separately combine the warm water, yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar.  Let the yeast work then add it and beaten eggs to the milk mixture; stir.  Mix in about 5 cups flour, enough to bring to a kneading consistency.  Knead dough then let it rise for about 30 minutes.  The dough is then ready to make into cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, scones, etc.

I got this recipe from my sister-in-law several years ago after I had tasted them at her Thanksgiving feast.  I have since made them thousands of times and they are simply put, no-fail.  Nothing is quite as tasty as these little babies and sometimes my family will request these multiple times in a single week.  They are so easy to make and utterly irresistible that I almost always acquiesce.  What I love about them the most is that it can be 3:30 in the afternoon and I will get a hankering for these guys and I still have time to throw a batch together before dinner.  I like to tackle this recipe the old-fashioned way for the most part but for those of you who are "with it" and enjoy the advantages of the 21st century, then this recipe may be even easier.

To start, I put my 1 cup of milk in a 2 cup measuring cup, stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes and, voila, scalded milk (scalded just means it has a skin across the top - or it didn't quite come to a boil, take your pick).
I toss in a cube of butter right into the measuring cup, dump in the 1/2 cup of sugar, and the 1 1/2 tsp salt, give it a little stir and let it sit on the counter for a while whilst I go about some other task.  When I pass by that way again, I'll give it another stir or two just to get that cube of butter melted in but other than that, it takes care of itself. 

I was very proud of myself years ago when I learned what was meant by the term "proofing" yeast.  I had always seen my mom do it that way but didn't know that that was what it was called.  Anyways, nowadays with these new-fangled yeasts, proofing is not really necessary anymore.  Nevertheless, for nostalgia sake, I still do it that way for this recipe.  After all, it can be proofing while the milk mixture is cooling.  So basically, to proof the yeast, pour some very warm but not burning hot water into a bowl and sprinkle the yeast evenly across the top.  To get the yeast to sink, I always sprinkle sugar across the top of it.

Once it has all sunk down in, just leave it for a few minutes and let it work its magic.  It will poof up and if your bowl wasn't quite adequate, it may spill over.  You will learn over time what size bowl is adequate or not.
But like I said, this is all moot since you could add the yeast directly to the mixture without proofing it at all because most of what you can buy these days is self-rising or something like that and doesn't really need this step.  But just in case, proofing it will be a nice trip back to your childhood days and remembering the sweet smells and thrills of mom's bread-making day, then treat yourself to that trip down memory lane.  It can't hurt anything.  While the yeast is proofing and the milk is cooling, I get a large bowl and beat my two eggs in it.
Of course, normally, at least 2 dozen other tasks have occurred in this timeframe meaning that the milk is pretty cool by the time I get to the next step.  But it doesn't have to be real cool.  Just not scalding hot so that it kills the yeast.  When I'm in a hurry to throw these together it might get a 10 minute cool-down period if it's lucky.  Add the yeast mixture to the eggs and stir in.  Then add the milk mixture to that and stir in.  Then do the same with the flour.

I have found that 5 cups is not enough.  I almost always add more, probably close to a cup more.  I just use my kneading hands to tell me whether it is still too sticky or not.  You don't want it to be a sticky mess.  But don't get carried away and make it too dry either.  You'll know when it's just right.  I have mixed this in my Bosch before and it works just fine but it is an easy recipe to knead up by hand also so most of the time I do it that way, mainly because I don't prefer hand-washing my Bosch bowl and that dough hook thing.  Chalk it up to laziness and being old-fashioned - the double whammy.
Once it feels pretty good, toss a towel over the top of the bowl and let it sit and rise for a bit.  If you're in a hurry for it to rise, turn your oven on to 200 F, boil a little bit of water in your microwave, toss it in the oven along with your dough bowl, then TURN THE OVEN OFF (very important step unless you have a penchant for partially cooked dough) and this will speed that process along nicely.  The great thing about this recipe is that once the dough has risen, it can be used to make dinner rolls, scones, or cinnamon rolls.  So versatile.  I have tried all three and they are all amazing.  In fact, many times, I will divide the dough up, cook three portions as dinner rolls, and save a portion for either scones or cinnamon rolls that I make up the next day.  Just store the dough in the fridge if you intend to do something else with it.  However, for this post, I only have pictures for how I make up my dinner rolls from the dough.  Hopefully, the other options are obvious but if not, perhaps you can comment and make a request for a post on those some other day. 
For dinner rolls, I divide the dough into four portions (my sister-in-law does three and makes bigger rolls - I prefer more quantity and feel that the size I get are just fine for my needs - it comes down to whether you want 24 rolls or 32 - they go so quickly around here that I like to get more bang for my buck so I go for 32 but that's what agency is for - use it).   
Roll each portion into a circle.  Paint melted butter across the top.
Cut into eight pieces like a pizza.

Roll each piece up starting at the fat end and ending at the tip.
Place tip side down on a buttered baking pan (this pan was made up by my teenagers who were in a hurry to not be helping mom - looks aside, they turned out delicious).
Brush remaining melted butter across tops, if desired.  Let rise for about 30 minutes (can speed rise using the warm oven from the trick mentioned earlier).  Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes or to desired brownness.  Too bad you can't smell these baking right now.  If you could, you'd be drooling on your keyboard!

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Board & Batten

Last summer I decided I wanted to change up our front entryway.  After seeing online a technique called "board & batten" I knew we could do it with our amateur wood skills.  We did all our measurements and I went to Home Depot and bought all the wood and had them cut it for me.  Easy peesy!

The most tedious part was caulking.  I would put it on and then use my finger to make sure it filled every crack.  By the time I was done, all my fingers were bloody from being rubbed raw!  Ouch!  But I loved the way it all turned out!

It really changes the whole look of the front of the house.  I love it!!  And the best thing is it was pretty inexpensive to do!  It was less than $100!

Have you tried board & batten yet? 


Friday, September 23, 2011

31 Gifts Winner

We have a winner.....
According to
Maynor Moments
who said
"Follow your blog"

Email us within 24 hours to claim your prize...

For everyone else...
I know you had to have found at least ONE thing that you just loved!
Christmas gifts, birthday gits...heck even just for yourself!!
Stop on by here to go to our party and order any items you want.  Just remember to ship your items to your house and not to the hostess. Remember Christmas is only 96 days away and while it may seem like a lot of time now, it will be here before we know it.  I mean seriously it will be October in a few weeks.   So start checking off your Christmas list with some fun stuff from Thirty-One Gifts.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pinterest Picks

Don't forget today is the last day to enter our giveaway here. Tell all your friends about our amazing giveaway.

Here are our latest Pinterest finds for this week...I don't know about you all, but I am LOVING this site! Such a wonderful organizing spot for all the fun and creative stuff out there on the web!


Pinned here
How awesome would this be?!?! I need one now! I feel like I sweep the floor a gazillion times a day and yet there is ALWAYS crumbs and random junk on my kitchen floor!

Pinned here
What a fun activity to do with your kids! And so cheap too! Pipe cleaners and a magnet! Going to do this one soon!!

Pinned here
I love me a Baby Ruth candybar!! I need to try this recipe out and see how close it is to the real thing! How can you go wrong with chocolate, peanuts and caramel!?!?

Tenille's Pick:

Found here
I made these last week and they were so delish. The best part is they are so easy and quick to make. Originally I always just made my chicken quesadillas with chicken and cheese, but adding the bacon and avocado really took this meal to the next level.

Found here
I love this idea. I am going to print this at my new house and put by my garage door that way my husband and I can write little love notes to each other.

Found here
I love this idea for decorating. It is so simple, yet so elegant. It could be used for a kids party, a casual gathering or even for a center piece for a wedding.

Liesl's Picks:

I love this idea for Halloween!

found here
I'm so excited for fall clothes and boots!

found here
I love this simple doormat! I have a doormat just like this and will for sure be painting a W on it:)
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Potato Cheese Soup

Come enter our giveaway HERE!!

Cook till tender:
5 cups chicken broth
1 3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
6-8 cups potatoes, diced small
1 tsp salt
dash pepper
2 grated carrots

Once veggies are tender, remove from heat.  Melt 3/4 cup butter and add 3/4 cup flour to make a roux.  Stir butter and flour into vegetable mixture.  Add 2 cup half & half and an 8 oz jar  Cheez Whiz.  Stir well over low heat.

This recipe is a favorite at my house.  One of the few cons of summer around here is that it is not "cheese soup" weather.  Even the picky 4-year old will eat this one without too much coaxing and cajoling.

I always like to start by chopping up all my veggies.  I just use my chopper for everything and pulverize everything until it could not be identified in a line-up with a scrutinizing 4 year old at the window eager to pick out vegetable perpetrators.
  The potatoes I dice up fairly small but not so small that several good minutes of simmering will make them disappear.  One friend I passed this recipe on to said she liked her potatoes in big chunks.  It is, after all, called Potato Cheese Soup.  So dice them to your own personal preference.  One trick I like to use with potatoes on days when I am trying to be on the ball is to go ahead and peel them and dice them up at a time of day when I have a spare minute, put them in a large container, then cover them with cold water (or any temperature water will work here).  This keeps them from browning and turning nasty looking and then they are all ready to go when you're ready to start cooking several hours later (very handy on church days with that nasty 1-4 pm schedule).
Add your veggies to a large stockpot, and dump in your chicken broth.  I am not one to waste a lot of time at measuring anything.  I never measure my veggies when I chop.  I just chop till I'm tired and it looks like enough.  This goes for the broth too.  I've always assumed that 1- 14 oz can of broth is close to 2 cups.  Therefore, 3 cans should be... about right, that's what.  I suppose if you were feeling skimpy, you could add 2 cans of broth and a half can of water.  This soup is very forgiving.
Don't forget your salt and pepper.  This does make a bit of difference.  Luckily, you can make up for it later if you forget but best to add in here at this step.  When I originally got this recipe, it suggested that the "cook till tender" part would take about 10 minutes.  Notice that I omitted that because this never takes just 10 minutes.  Maybe my stove is slow or something or I'm chopping the potatoes bigger than the recipe writer but I like to cook them until those potatoes are fork tender and that always takes a whole lot longer than 10 minutes.  I'm not going to name a time.  Just stir occasionally and poke with a fork every so often.
When you're convinced those veggies are where you like them, turn off the heat.  While this delicious mixture is simmering away, go ahead and whip up your roux.  I always just melt my cube and a half of butter in the microwave (or on the counter if your demanding sister is making you cook up soup in the middle of summer for a blog post), then add my flour and mix the two with a fork or a spoon or the nearest utensil handy and set aside.  I was going to take a picture of the final product here but the phone rang and I got distracted and didn't think about it again until I had already added it to the pot.  Nevertheless, your roux should look smooth and velvety.
When your veggies are tender, remove the pot briefly from the heat, add the roux, and stir it in.  This will make things very thick.  Go ahead and add your half and half (surprise, must of left that off the grocery list, oh well, milk can be substituted here with no issues at all), then put back on a lower heat and add your cheez whiz.
The recipe calls for an 8 oz bottle.  Do they make such things?  I've never seen one.  So the first time I made this I only had a 15 oz bottle of cheez whiz and I was just going to add half of it when I thought to myself, I will stick this half used jar in my fridge, it will end up in the back somewhere hidden from view until I discover it 6 months later growing something greenish blue across the top of it.  After throwing up in my mouth, I will throw the bottle away and think, dang it, why don't they make an 8 oz bottle of that stuff so people don't have to waste it.  After this line of thinking, I decided that I would just add the whole 15 ounces, after all if some cheese is good, then twice as much cheese must be better, right.  I was not disappointed and I've done it that way ever since.  I have never had anyone say, man that was good but it was about twice as cheesy as I would have liked.  Long story short, here's another place in the recipe where you can use your own great judgment.  Stir it all in till it's heated through and serve.

This is delicious with some homemade rolls...recipe to come later...
or straight from the spoon.  Enjoy!

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